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Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson: Saving Salmon Isn't Going To Be Easy

Darin Oswald
Idaho Statesman
Lower Granite Dam is one of four hydroelectric dams on the Lower Snake River that salmon advocates and Indian tribes say must be breached for the sake of native salmon.

U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson is getting pushback for his $33.5 billion proposal to remove four dams on the Lower Snake River. The attempt to restore salmon populations would dismantle an intricate economic infrastructure. But Simpson sees no other options.

It’s no easy fix — from water for agriculture to hydroelectric power to shipping, the dams support a network of diverse industries. But Simpson said in a video released over the weekend, dam removal is the only way to try to save these salmon from extinction.

“In the end, we realized there is no viable path that can allow us to keep the dams in place,” he said.

Over the last three years, he and his team held 300 meetings with stakeholders, including tribes, agriculture and power representatives, and lawmakers.

But he’s still getting pushback. Among his opponents is fellow Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington). In a statement, she called the proposal a “drastic, fiscally irresponsible leap to take.”

Simpson proposes giving money to support industries who depend on these dams once they’re breached. The idea is to help pivot to alternatives during the time of transition.

Justin Hayes, the director of the Idaho Conservation League, supports Simpon’s plan.

“This is the start of the Northwest finding a way to work together to restore salmon and provide for other important economies and communities,” he said.

The proposal will also work to establish Tribal governments and states as managers of salmon fisheries, fulfilling a past broken treaty promise.

Simpson says there’s no legislation yet and a concept like this will need stakeholders working together to draft a solution.

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

Gustavo Sagrero was a newsroom intern in 2021.

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